Allow Son Raw to reintroduce himself
In music, no matter your scene, you’re only new once. With the rare exceptions of acts that suddenly find a completely different audience late in their careers, chances are that you’ll find critics at their most receptive during the first year you’ve made an impact. It’s a selfish impulse universal to music writers: everyone wants to be “first” and lay claim to an act in an effort to boost their own status. Thing is, one year doesn’t make a career, and what separates a career musician from a guy with a hot record is how they define themselves once that initial run is over. Who are you when you’re not “the new guy”?
When I interviewed Elijah in 2011*, Butterz was heading into phase 2, which meant recording with vocalists after their initial run hyping “instrumental Grime” – still a fuzzy concept to most. I have no idea what phase they’re on now, but since then they’ve thrown parties at Cable, moved onto Fabric when that club closed, ran their own series of events across England and have put out music ranging from glossy electronic funk rivaling the most hi-def EDM to soulful Garage putting most Deep House to shame. They’re all too often skipped over or reduced to a mention by music writers who’ve suddenly decided that Grime is experiencing a revival, but they’ve been smart enough to position themselves so that doesn’t matter, whether through working with the emcees they grew up listening to or connecting to audiences outside of Grime’s core massive. Dubstep may be dead but ask Swindle about that Deep Medi tour circuit.
In this light, their latest Scars EP feels particularly significant, since it positions the imprint as a connector between the old school and new. Made up of 3 lost Footsie dubs from the Newham General’s days on Rinse, it’s a reminder that Grime didn’t stop existing in between Dizzee Rascal’s Mercury prize and the recent wave of attention. More importantly, it’s a smack in the face for anyone who’s ignored Footsie, whose stark, functional productions, perfect for emceeing, may not have perked hipster ears but were absolutely foundational in the genre. At the time, when Dubstep was bringing back a heavy reggae influence to the game, his soundclash ready productions were just as dark and minimal as anything happening in an SE or SW post code. Years later, when some are moaning about how Grime’s getting gentrified or too self-referential, the record’s release feels like a much more productive way to help correct the error than late night twitter sessions.
Catch Butterz at Fabric this Friday if you’re in London. I’ve been, and they run the dance.